Monday, 15 March 2010

Green Zone


Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan & Jason Isaacs

Star and director of The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum team up again to bring another frenetic thriller to the screen with a very timely military slant. Set shortly after the US led topple of Saddam’s grip on Iraq, Chief Roy Miller (Damon) leads his team in search of WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Frustrated that every fire-fight and life and death situation result in them finding nothing, Miller begins to question his superiors on whether these WMDs actually exist. With a tip off from an equalling suspecting CIA official (Gleeson) and a news paper reporter (Ryan), Miller ventures further into the bowels of a burnt out Baghdad in search of the truth, hunted by both the Iraqi army and members of his own side.

While the promotional campaign is pushing the whole Bourne in Iraq slant, Green Zone, despite sharing similarities with that franchise, proves to be quite a different beast. Attempting to fuse a real world thriller with an adrenaline charged action film; Greengrass and Damon get the mix just about right. The movie is serious to a point where it maybe tries just a little too hard to get its point across. Not that there should be moments of light relief or snappy one liners as Green Zone does deal with a very real, serious and ongoing state of affairs. It’s just that in its relentlessness to throw us into the chaos torn streets of Baghdad and corrupt world of shady government officials, subtly is often replaced with a sledgehammer approach. This may be the point as the film deals with a certain set of characters thrown into a whirlwind situation, played out over a couple of very frantic days. This will no doubt irk some as characters are defined as either good or evil and there is little room for complex deconstructions of their personalities, motives and backgrounds.

While it is comparable to the Bourne trilogy, Green Zone has a slightly harder edge: due in part to this being based on real rather than fictional events. The film shares a similar visual style with Greengrass and Damon’s Bourne entries but, and despite the trailers suggesting otherwise, isn’t as action heavy as them. There is certainly a good dose of military styled action but Green Zone is all about momentum. The film rockets along, even when there is no blazing action on the screen. Character, plot, situation and emotion are all developed on the run as the movie is all about the pursuit: whether that is negotiating, reasoning or automatic weapon based action. This all in turn brings up Greengrass’ love of shaky, gritty, constantly moving, “going-for-realism” camerawork. While he is arguably the best at it, the technique is perhaps overdone here. It certainly adds to the chaotic, on-the-run vibe of the film and certainly intensifies some realistic action scenes but is perhaps not so needed in the talkier scenes: or when one character is simply walking over to meet another.

The action scenes are impressively tense and up until the extended running gun battle at the end: short, sharp and sweet. The epic showdown is a thrilling, white knuckle set piece but is unfortunately marred with that shaky camerawork. Yes one gets the sense this is very realistic but it would also be nice to get a clear picture of what is happening and to whom. Still, all Bourne comparisons and shaky camera jibes aside, Green Zone is still an effective military thriller that engages and even shocks in equal measure. And for a big Hollywood release it also shows America in a somewhat unflattering light, concerning their actions in the recent Iraqi conflict, which is a brave move for a studio film. Not without its flaws but an intense thriller in its own right, Green Zone may split viewers but is a refreshing grown up action film.

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